World War II Veterans Memorial.Then and Now
On a beautiful July day in 1998, former U.S. Senator and World War II veteran Bob Dole gave the keynote address at the dedication ceremonies for the Maryland World War II Memorial. Dole, who fought in Italy as a second lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division, was gravely wounded by enemy machine gun-fire when he crawled out of a foxhole to help a fellow soldier.
The dedication ceremony was attended by three former governors, then-Governor Parris Glendenning, and two thousand citizens, many themselves veterans of the war.
The site, located on Route 450 at the Naval Academy Bridge, was chosen by a 25-member commission appointed by then-Governor William Donald Schaefer in 1991 and the ensuing, six year-long project was led by Brigadier General John F. Burk, Jr. The commission included veterans as well as professionals from different fields and public servants.
The memorial was designed as a tribute to the more than six thousand Marylanders who died in service between May 16, 1940 and December 31, 1946. The honored 6,454 fallen were from the Army (171 from Anne Arundel County), Navy (81 AA Cty.), Marines (16 AA Cty.) and the U.S. Merchant Marines (9 AA Cty.). They died in the Pacific, Europe and North Africa; they died on ships, in hospitals, on fields, at sea and in another soldier’s arms.
These were the sons of Maryland from the farms, small towns and cities. They were students, salesmen, teachers and policemen. They were brave, cherished, and in 1998 formally honored at a place overlooking the Severn River, the United States Naval Academy and Annapolis.
The design was the work of New York architect Secundino Fernandez. It is an open, four-sided amphitheater. There are forty-eight, nine-foot tall columns, representative of the then-forty-eight states, surrounding the amphitheater. The twenty granite stones recount historic war events both at the war sites and here in Maryland and honor the 288,000 Marylanders who served during the war years. The war dead are memorialized on polished, black panels. A seven-sided obelisk at the center symbolizes Maryland’s status as the seventh state and at its top is a star that glows at dark. The two, large granite globes, positioned outside the ring of pillars, mark the places of battles.
The design was chosen after a world-wide competition by a seven-member panel that unanimously selected the submission by Fernandez. Priceless Industries of Dundalk, Md. was awarded the $1.7 million contract by the Maryland Board of Public Works in August 1997. Groundbreaking began in October of that year.
The memorial has had its ups and downs. This small, charming capitol city has to balance the needs and desires of the residents, the local and state governments and the four million visitors every day. The concerns of many Marylanders were that the view from the quiet Gov. Ritchie Overlook would be compromised. While the dream that then-Governor Schaefer had was long on the drawing boards, it is beautiful in execution.
As so often happens, the finished site has blended into the hillside with quiet grace and honored presence. We are doubly fortunate with the memorial and with those who served to keep us where we are today.